A new worship song called “Reckless Love” is gaining tremendous popularity in the modern church community. I’ve decided to write this article as a sort of “yellow-flag”, to encourage worshipers and church leaders alike to consider all of the theological realities at play in this song before deciding to include it in a Sunday morning set list.
Credit Where It’s Due
This song is incredibly well written. The first time I heard it I was deeply moved by the way it poetically carries us through the gospel message. I had it on constant repeat for several days, and still find myself humming lines under my breath. There is a powerful message here; it’s deeply aware of our own undeserving and the sheer weight of God’s grace in light of that.
My concern is not with the message of the song or the way it describes our salvation, but with that last little phrase, “oh the…reckless love of God“. Can God really be reckless? In addressing concerns similar to my own, the author of the song wrote this:
… When I use the phrase, “the reckless love of God”, I’m not saying that God Himself is reckless. I am, however, saying that the way He loves, is in many regards, quite so. What I mean is this: He is utterly unconcerned with the consequences of His actions with regards to His own safety, comfort, and well-being. His love isn’t crafty or slick. It’s not cunning or shrewd. In fact, all things considered, it’s quite childlike, and might I even suggest, sometimes downright ridiculous. His love bankrupted heaven for you. His love doesn’t consider Himself first. His love isn’t selfish or self-serving. He doesn’t wonder what He’ll gain or lose by putting Himself out there. He simply gives Himself away on the off-chance that one of us might look back at Him and offer ourselves in return… —Cory Asbury
My hope here is simply to open a dialogue focused on Biblical truth, and point out some things I believe about God that may be slightly different from who this song suggests He is.
Breaking the Metaphor
The themes of this song tie directly, it seems, to the parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:1-7). In the chorus, God’s love is extolled as being “reckless” in the way it pursues the lost sheep (or in the perspective of the song, the way it pursues us). To paraphrase, the love of God pursues the lost person even when they don’t deserve to be rescued. This, along with the idea of leaving the 99 other sheep, leads us to sing that God’s love is reckless.
While there may be a valid argument in calling the story’s shepherd reckless for leaving his 99 sheep unattended, the same cannot be said for God (and I think that describing God and describing God’s love are one in the same). Here are four reasons why God can never be reckless:
1. God’s Power is not Limited
To say that God loves recklessly suggests that His love takes no consideration of consequences or is generally irresponsible. Now, if a competent shepherd left his 99 sheep unattended for the sake of one lost sheep, you might describe him this way. There is very little economic sense in risking everything for the sake of one, and in this case the shepherd could rightly be described as reckless.
However, if God were the shepherd, the same challenge wouldn’t exist. God isn’t limited to specific times or spaces, such that He would be forced to choose between saving 1 or preserving the 99. The sovereignty of God means that He could intimately pursue the lost sheep without losing track of the rest. To suggest that He would have to choose represents a starkly limited perspective of God’s power.
God can never be reckless because His power knows no limit. There can’t be a scenario in which God’s attention is split. He’s fully aware of and at work in all things. (Isaiah 55:10-11; Lamentations 3:37-42; Psalm 147:1-11; Matthew 28:16-19; Ephesians 4:4-7)
2. God’s Control is Intimate
When we say that God is in control, we’re not just talking about some supernatural being who lives in the clouds and came down to earth one time a few thousand years ago. The God described in the Bible is present, active, and intimately involved in our daily lives (Hebrews 1:1-2:18).
To suggest that God’s pursuit of us is reckless presumes that we’re not exactly where God intends us to be, or that He doesn’t already know where we are. The Bible is abundantly clear (Proverbs 16:1-33) that, from beginning to end, God has full authority over our lives. This doesn’t diminish our own free will (Galatians 5:13; John 7:17), but testifies that God is gloriously and fully in control.
God can never be reckless because there is nothing that happens outside of His will. There’s no chance that things won’t go the way God intends them. (Isaiah 46:9-10)
3. God Doesn’t Take Risks
When we say God’s love is reckless, we suggest that His love required risk; that, in choosing to love us, God knew and accepted potential consequences. This belief hinges on the idea that God is glorious because He saved us. More on that here.
The Bible, however, tells us that God is glorious simply because He is God (Psalm 19:1-14). If this is true, there can’t really be risk involved in God’s choice to save us. There was no option for failure when God came down to save the world.
God can never be reckless because He will never be at risk. In the end, nothing can steal His glory, especially not failure. (Romans 11:33-36)
4. Salvation is for His Glory and Our Good
When we describe God’s love as reckless, we’re inevitably saying that God is more concerned with us than with Himself. This is, however, not how the Bible describes God’s motivations (Ephesians 1:3-6; Isaiah 43:6-7).
God tells us in His Word that our salvation was for His glory and our good, not one without the other. We don’t worship God because He chose to save us, we worship Him for who He is. If our worship is rooted in the recklessness with which God saved us, we care far more about our own worth than His– and we should be wary of anything that moves us to think in this way.
God can never be reckless because He is infinitely concerned and invested in the consequences of His actions, namely His glory. (2 Corinthians 4:13-15)
The Bigger Picture
Every word we use to talk about God is important, especially when we sing them together in worship. When we describe God’s love as reckless, we make Him much smaller than He actually is–and this is an unwise way to describe the King of Kings. The idea of reckless love sounds good, but falls flat when compared to the God of the Bible.
As a worship leader, I will not lead this song in my church. I believe the word “reckless” is too far from the Biblical character of God, and leads us to see Him as weak or limited. God’s love is beautiful not because it is reckless but because it is gracious, steadfast, and eternal.
What do you think about the word choice in the song? Is it something that should concern us, or just another facet of His mysterious character? Does the Bible describe God in this way? Let me know what you think in the comments section below!